Thursday, December 24, 2009

Simon Martini Essay

Essay on Simon Martini

Simone Martini was a Sienese painter during the thirteenth and fourteenth century. Martini was born in Siena, Italy in 1283. He attended the Sienese school in Italy. Martine died in 1344, in either his birth place of Siena or at Avignon, in France (Columbia, Seventh Edition).

Martini being a direct pupil of Duccio di Buoninsegns was one of the most original and influential artists of the Sienese school ( Lengmuir, 440). He introduced the fresco technique into the school. Building on techniques developed by Duccio for indicating three-dimensional space, Simone developed his own method, characterized by refined contour of line, grace of expression, and serenity of mood ( Encarta).

Martini’s earliest authentic works is his great fresco in Siena of the enthroned virgin and child, which was an altar piece panel, this one was painted originally in 1315, and restored by the master himself in 1321( Catholic, Vol. IX). In 1317, King Robert of Anjou invited him to Naples to paint, and created alter pieces for the Dominicans of Pisa and Orvieto (Columbia, Seventh Edition).

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Simone lived in Assisi for a time, where he produced one of his greatest frescoes, illustrating scenes from the life of St. Martin (Pioch, 1). In 1340, at the request of Pope Benedict XII, Simone traveled to Avignon, in the service of the papal court then resident in that place, and there he decorated various portions of the cathedral and several chapel rooms in the papal palace ( Catholic, Vol. IX). Among his works are Saint John the Baptist, and The Annunciation, considered one of the greatest achievements of the Sienese school (Lengmuir,441).

Simone’s Road to Calvary, which is a panel fresco and is 9 7/8 x 6 1/8, shows the figures not equal in size to their surroundings. The style of clothing appear to be fashioned after the styles of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. But the colors used in their clothes are bright and some or most are detailed in gold. One of the things that you will notice the most are the many different facial expressions.

Gowing, the author of Paintings in the Louvre writes this about this magnificent work of art: Scrambling down the precipitous road out of Jerusalem, as it is depicted in this to Calvary. It is the bitter intensity of the color from the figure of Mary Magdalen onward, miming as usual her own distraught crucifixion, that sets the ritual progress on its way. Sienese painters had a vivid sense of community, its momentum and style. Here each follower or vicious persecutor presses as urgently about Christ as the rest (Gowing,36). The author of History of Art, points out influences of other artists techniques that exist in Simone’s Road to Calvary, He writes: in its sparkling colors, and especially in the architectural background, it still echoes the are of Duccio. The vigorous modeling of the figures, on the other hand, as well as their dramatic gestures and expressions, betray the influence of Giotto. While Simone Martini is not much concerned with spatial clarity, he proves to be an extraordinarily acute observer; the sheer variety of costumes and physical types, the wealth of human incident, create a sense of down-to-earth reality very different from both the lyricism of Duccio and the grandeur of Giotto (Janson,350).

In 1330 Simone created an egg tempera on panel called Saint Luke the Evangelist. This painting is to me less detailed than his other works that I have seen. Martini still uses bright color and a dominant facial expression on his subject. In Simone’s egg-tempera portrait of the patron saint of painters, the form has been created by many parallel strokes of color (Carr, 67).

The Annunciation, created in 1333 which is a panel painting is of the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Gabriel. Simone positions them in very natural poses, because the Virgin Mary appears timid and almost worried by the words written in gold which face her, and her hands are held in a similar way to those of her visitor, who brings her a twig as a reminder of her mission (Pioch, 2). The eyes are also drawn to the vase of flowers in the center and to the dove of the Holy Ghost higher up( Pioch,2).

Simone’s Annunciation is a condensed cathedral faŠ·ade, Gothic this time, with a deep gold border (Hartt, 412). The angel’s message, Ave gratia plena dominus tecum ( “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee”; Luke 1:28) is embossed on the gold background. Mary, “troubled at his saying,” recoils elegantly, her face clouded with apprehension. This is an extraordinary and unexpected style, but graceful in the extreme, with all the characteristic Sienese fluency of line translated from Byzantine Geek into Flamboyant French ( Hartt, 413).

Because of Simone’s separation from the Byzantine tradition in favor of the more fashionable courtly French Gothic style of the early fourteenth century he was able to bring back the latest French imports( Hartt,412). His art is admired for its Gothic spirituality combined with a vibrancy and a great elegance of line. He was also introduced the fresco technique to the Sienese school (Columbia, Seventh Edition). And in doing these things he was able to open the door to many more ideas and options for the artists to come after him.


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